KATHMANDU, Nepal – Crowds cheered Thursday as a teenage boy was pulled, dazed and dusty, from the wreckage of a seven-story Kathmandu building that collapsed around him five days ago when an enormous earthquake shook Nepal.
Pemba Tamang was carried out on a stretcher, his face was covered in dust. Medics had put an IV drip into his arm and a blue brace had been placed around his neck. He appeared stunned, and his eyes blinked in the sunlight.
Nepalese rescuers, with support from an American disaster response team, had been working for hours to free Tamang, who police said was 18 years old.
L.B. Basnet, the police officer who crawled into a gap in the rubble to reach Tamang, said he was surprisingly responsive.
“He thanked me when I first approached him,” said Basnet. “He told me his name, his address, and I gave him some water. I assured him we were near to him.”
Rescuers eventually used jacks to lift the concrete slabs that had wedged him in, said Basnet.
An American disaster response team had been helping the Nepalese.
“He’s not too far down, but the floors have collapsed and he’d pancaked between them,” Andrew Olvera, an urban search and rescue member with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, said shortly before the boy was freed.
Twisted ropes of steel reinforcing rods were all that stopped huge concrete slabs from falling onto the scene. Two concrete floors hung down in front of the building like curtains.
“The whole operation is dangerous,” Olvera said. “But it’s risk versus gain. To save a human life, we’ll risk almost anything.”
The rescue was a rare bit of good news in a city that has known little but despair since the earthquake hit Saturday, leaving more than 5,500 people dead across this poverty-wracked Himalayan nation.
Asked how Tamang had lasted for so many days, Basnet replied: “He survived by good faith.”